The Silver Realm: The Warriors
He Tasted Blood In His Mouth
He tasted blood in his mouth and grabbed his jaw where the punk hit him. Life was pain.
He felt the asphalt beneath his cheek and was sure that at least one tooth was going to fall out if he managed to live through this. The side of his head had exploded, he was sure, and he wanted to transport himself instantly to almost anywhere else. If only Star Trek was real – he would ask Scotty to transport him up right now. He could hear the voice of the young man yelling obscenities at him and he felt all three spots where he had been kicked.
He knew he needed to get back up. They wanted him to stay on the ground. They earned their reputation by forcing others to cower and by inflicting pain that left people whimpering. He would not let them win. He would rather die.
At 65, he was way too old to be dealing with young hoodlums. It was also too hot. The summer temperature was way too high and he needed to be at home in his lounge chair rather than lying on the sidewalk with broken ribs. It would be easy to give up and hand over his wallet, but he couldn’t do it. He was the example that six kids and twenty-one grandkids looked up to. They thought he was the toughest grandpa ever – he could not give in.
Charles Tasch and Tyron Bartle were a couple of bullies and they knew it. They enjoyed it and profited by it. They understood that most of the people in the U.S. had become complacent and weak, particularly in this neighborhood. All you had to do was scare them a little bit and they buckled. The fools were always waiting for someone else to come rushing in to help them. Some even expected the police to show up. When things got tough, they would look around for their rescue and if no one showed up within a couple of seconds, they gave in to whatever a bully wanted.
After five years of robbing people, Tyron was pretty good at telling the difference between a strong victim and a weak one. He never attacked someone who looked strong. This was the first time he had been wrong in a long time. He had never had an old person stand up to him before and this was the first time one of them even argued about turning over their money in years. The most he would get is some whining about keeping some of their money for something. He usually let them keep a little.
Tyron robbed people in front of others from the neighborhood as he had learned that if you humiliated an old person in front of a crowd, then the next time they would just hand over their money with no problems. Plus, they were all too scared to call the police. For years, he and Charles had earned a good living from their robberies. Last week, they brought in about $900 per day with almost all of their “customers” being repeat business.
Charles was not as confident as Tyron and wanted to run away as fast as possible. He had been watching the crowd as Tyron beat on the man. They were turning ugly. More and more people came up and circled the group until Charles was sure they could no longer get away.
Charles looked at the old man on the ground. Why did he keep getting up? Why didn’t he give up his money? Didn’t he understand that Tyron would kill him? And what would the crowd do when that happened? Charles prayed that the old man stayed on the ground this time and gave up his wallet.
Standing in the crowd was a man in his late fifties. Sam was a retired police officer who came back to work to perform undercover work for the local vice squad. They were trying to find out who was supplying the drugs to Charles and Tyron and set him up as the uncle to one of the local families. It was all that he could do to stand by. He wanted to pull the gun he didn’t have and stop this assault but that would blow his cover. He didn’t know who the old man was and had actually thought he might be one of the suppliers’ contacts when he first moved into the neighborhood. But the old man had checked out clean.
Sam’s research found that the old man’s wife had died two years earlier and the medical expenses left him totally bankrupt. He did not qualify for government support because he refused to install the implants required. So he could only live in commercial apartments and the only inexpensive ones were in these types of neighborhoods. Sad story but not unusual.
Sam knew how tough things were for people who refused the implants. The Supreme Court ruled that they could not be forced to have one but that the government did not have to deliver full benefits to them if they didn’t wear one. Even their social security checks were reduced. They only received one fourth of what people with implants received.
Sam never saw anyone visit the old man and found out that he refused to tell his family where he lived so they wouldn’t endanger themselves coming to visit him. He would ride the buses to a mall on the other side of town and meet them. But now he was sure that the old man’s attitude was going to get him killed. He didn’t believe that Tyron would stop unless the old man surrendered the money or died.
Sam hoped and prayed that the old man gave up the money before it was too late.
The crowd went silent as the old man pushed himself to all fours. Would he give in this time? Blood ran down the side of his face from the many cuts and he was having trouble breathing. The old man held his side and got to his feet. He stumbled and almost fell. Then he stood and turned toward Tyron.
“Give up the money old man or die!”
A mischievous smile ran across the old man’s bloodied face and he asked, “Are you threatening my life?”
Sam was shocked. The old man had smiled and asked a key legal question. If Tyron answered yes, the old man could now prove self defense for anything that followed. But why? He couldn’t fight. The old man was almost dead. He could hardly stand. Nothing today made sense.
Bethany was 72 and hated being robbed every week. They always waited until after her family visited because they knew she was given money. She had gotten to the point where she didn’t want to see her family anymore. She hated Tyron and Charles because they made her feel like a failure and coward. She didn’t know who this old man was but she desperately wanted him to win. She wanted him to destroy them. But she knew what would happen. So, she prayed for a miracle.
Tyron felt nothing but confusion and anger. No one had stood up to him for years, especially an old man. This had to stop. There was now a crowd and he could tell that they wanted him to lose. Plus, if the man died, the police would have lots of witnesses and one might testify. No, he needed to keep torturing until he got that money.
Tyron leaned forward and said, “Yes. You stupid idiot. You either give me the money or die slow as I break all the bones in your body one at a time.”
The old man smiled again. He stretched out his body and stepped back from Tyron. Tyron smiled and thought that finally the old man was scared and would give him the money. He was wrong.
The old man leaned forward and threw himself at Tyron butting his head against Tyron’s chin. He drove with his legs and pushed the young man into the ground with all the strength that he had in his broken, old body. He didn’t stop. Once Tyron was on the ground the old man took his elbow and smashed it into Tyron’s face multiple times. Before Tyron could adjust, the old man sat up and then threw himself back down bringing all his weight onto his right elbow that he had aimed at Tyron’s throat.
Twice more he repeated the action stunning everyone around. Then he struggled to his feet next to a choking Tyron. He walked up to Tyron’s head, lifted his right foot, and stomped down on Tyron’s jaw. The crowd gasped as the sound of breaking bone hit their ears.
The old man was panting rapidly and looked like he was about to drop. He turned to Charles and said, “Are you threatening me too?”
Charles had terror written all over his face. He wanted nothing more than to run but the crowd would not let him. He answered quietly, “No, sir.” He bowed his head down and prayed he would be allowed to leave.
The old man walked up to Charles slowly and stopped when he was almost touching the young man face to face.
“Are you going to return all the money you still have? Now?”
Charles was trembling as he answered, “Uhm. Ok. Sure.”
Charles thought this might be his way out. The old man was going to let him leave and then he would get the money and never come back.
“Good. I bet there are a few people here who will volunteer to go with and help you.”
The crowd cheered and many voices were heard saying, “I will go.”
Charles felt his air and hope leave him. He looked back at Tyron, who was now choking up blood, and decided it was best to do as he was told. He turned and walked to his apartment with about twenty community members. This was shaping up to be his worst day ever.
Sam was amazed at what he just saw and didn’t know what to do. When the old man walked up to him he was very apprehensive.
“Can you call for an ambulance for the young man?”
Sam was relieved as he answered, “Sure.”
What was going on here? He was a trained officer of the law and he was nervous when the old man approached. Who was this guy really and how did he handle all of the abuse and still be able to attack back?
Sam triggered his com device and called for an ambulance and police. It took a while to explain everything to the dispatcher. When he looked back the old man was gone. He looked around but didn’t see the old man anywhere. He turned to an old lady nearby.
“Where did the old man go?”
“Why? So you can arrest him?”
Sam was shocked. What did this old lady know?
“What? I don’t arrest people?”
“Right. When you are undercover you only watch people being robbed and beaten, you don’t help.”
Then, Bethany turned and walked away leaving Sam surprised once again. Did everyone know he was undercover. He needed to know. He went after the old woman and stepped in front of her.
“Just what do you mean by that?”
“We all know that you are a retired cop working undercover. Tyron and Charles told us and you are also very obviously not here because you have to be. It just makes me sick how you stood there and did nothing while they beat that man almost to a pulp. I am so glad that he paid Tyron back some. Now leave me alone.”
The old woman walked away and Sam felt about as tall as a worm. He didn’t know how to move forward and moved slowly back to where Tyron was on the ground. Just as he approached, the sounds of the ambulance’s sirens could be heard. He looked at the young man on the ground and wasn’t sure that he would make it.
Sam realized that his cover was blown and after the ambulance arrived, he went to his apartment and packed up. He never felt so down in his life. He wondered what happened to the old man. If he didn’t get to a hospital soon, he would probably die as Sam was sure he had multiple internal injuries.
Maybe his wife was right and he should just hang it up and enjoy his retirement. They had a beautiful house on the lake and it was all paid for. He hated that his wife was the one in the family that had paid for the home. He made very little compared to her. When she retired, she had hoped he would follow. The thought now came to him that he was only doing the undercover because he was not comfortable in “her” house. After watching the old man get beat without giving up and without fighting back until his life was on the line, he knew that it was only his ego that had him working.
As Sam walked to his car he was a different person. He vowed never to stand on the sidelines again. He made a couple of phone calls and then drove home. Later, when he walked into the house on the lake, he said to his wife, “I love you more than my life, I love this house, and I quit my job today.”
Sam’s wife cried and hugged him for a long time. She didn’t know what had happened but she could tell when her husband was telling the truth and he was. It was the happiest day of her life since her youngest child was born.
The old man was in a dark alley seven blocks from his apartment. He had thought if he took the short cut he might make it. He had wanted to die at home but he wasn’t going to. He only made it about half way when his breathing forced him to sit down. He was not able to get back up.
He knew it was time to die. His family would be sad but he was glad he went out the way he did. He hated bullies and fought against them in one way or the other his whole life. The third kick in his side broke something critical and he knew it when it happened. Still, until they threatened to kill him, he could not attack. That would send the wrong message to his kids and grandkids and their success was more important than his life any day.
He laid his head down on the ground because he could no longer hold it up. Life had been good to him. He loved his family and believed that they would be ok. He was ready to die.
He closed his eyes and felt some of the fear of death come to him. He prayed and a comfort came over him. He knew he was not worthy of heaven but hoped that mercy would allow him in. He started to slip into darkness.
Then he felt a hand on his forehead and he heard a voice ask, “Are you willing to help others stand up against evil?”
He whispered, “Of course.”
“Are you willing to suffer, perhaps a lot, in this effort?”
He noticed that his pain level was dropping and his head was clearing.
“Yes, I am.”
The pain flowed out of his body and in its place was a comforting warmth that spread through his body. Everywhere the warmth spread his pain left. Soon he had no pain and opened his eyes. Standing in front of him with one hand holding a glove and the other on his forehead was a man, a tall man.
He did not look old, nor did he look like he was very young; he had light brown eyes with a gold glint in them and smile lines all over his face. He seemed to radiate a visible energy that was impossible to define. His hair was white but he had a confidence about him and a certain spring in his walk as one has when they are young and indestructible. He wore a coat of some unusual material that rose from his shoulders to the top of his head in a cowl and flowed down from his shoulders to his ankles. His hair fell out of his cowl down across his chest and he wore a neatly trimmed beard that covered most of his face.
The snow was falling outside as she finished cleaning the house. It had been six months since she saw her father and she was very worried. He had not been the same since mom died and she knew he was dead broke from all the medical bills. The family had invited him to stay with them and offered him money but he refused it all. Some said it was pride, others that he was stubborn.
She knew better. He just did not want to be a burden on anyone. He believed that they should use their resources for their kids not their parents. Growing up with him had been tough because of what he expected but he told them that once they were an adult it was their life not his.
He tried to honor that by not telling them what to do unless they asked. He went out of his way to respect their new family traditions. He tried to visit when it was convenient for them. And so much more. As they got older, all the kids understood why he had acted as he did. It helped them through tough times and they all were respectable people now.
However, the past six months no one had heard from him at all except for a short note in late summer. The note had said, “I have a new job and will be in training for about six months. See you in February.”
Most of their friends thought he was in the hospital and the rest thought he was in jail. They had read about the mysterious old man who fought the punk robbing people in the ghetto. They were sure it was him. Many reporters hunted for months trying to find the man to no avail. Some of the stories written listed him as a hero and others as a criminal.
The family agreed that it sounded like him but could not find him either. Till yesterday. She received the com message that he would be visiting her and asked if it was ok for the rest of the family to come over if they wished. She was the “family boss” according to her siblings so it made sense that he contacted her first. She commed back yes and within minutes her siblings called to discuss their invitations. All of which came with a code for paid travel. Rather curious for a man who two years ago was so in debt that he had to move into the ghetto.
Due to the short notice, only one of her sisters was able to make the trip and she arrived two hours ago with the kids only. Everyone was in the living room waiting except her. She was too much like her mother and had to be doing something, mainly cleaning, when she was stressed. She finished sweeping the floor and dumped the remains in the garbage.
The garbage did not need emptying but she needed to take it out. She hollered into the living room that she was taking the garbage out. She was thoughtful and worried about her father as she walked through the fresh snow to the dumpster.
Something shimmered behind the garage drawing her view. There he was walking toward her. She ran to him, crying all the way, and jumped on him giving him a huge hug. Then she jumped back. What was wrong with her? She probably hurt him.
Her dad was looking back at her and laughing.
“I am fine.”
He reached out and pulled her back into a hug and held her tight for a long time. Until she stopped shaking.
“Where have you been? What is this job? Why didn’t you call?”
The questions poured out and she spewed about ten without giving him a chance to answer. He just stood there and smiled. When she finally stopped he hugged her again.
“I am fine. My job is going to be very tough and I will be gone a lot. I just wanted to come by and let the people I love know that things are better now and that you don’t need to worry. Let’s go inside so I can hug the rest who are here.”
She smiled through her tears and they went in.
After the greetings and hugs were over, he wouldn’t answer questions. He said presents first, since he missed Christmas. He took out some envelopes. Each one had a child or a grandchild’s name on it. He handed out the envelopes to those who were there and asked her to send off the rest later.
Inside each was a letter where he discussed the things they had been doing in fall and how proud he was of them. He told them that he was going to be gone a lot but that he was still keeping up with what they were doing. There was also a gift card to their favorite store, or restaurant, or movie theatre, or whatever.
For his kids, he included a credit report showing that all of the medical bills were paid off along with the rest of his debt. There was also a copy of his health ID card showing that he had a ten year, fully paid, subscription to the zero deductible and top rated insurance plan offered.
She was watching him from across the room. He was dressed in Dockers pants, the more expensive dressy ones. He had new, tall, black, and stitched Justin cowboy boots on with a really nice looking felt cowboy hat. The hat must have water proofing because the melted snow left water pellets that rolled off of the hat. The shirt was a dress shirt with a western collar and a bolo tie that had a Texas Star on it. Over all of this he wore a leather trench coat that fell to his ankles. The coat was open but he refused to take it off.
She watched him move around and realized that his limp was gone. He also no longer favored his neck. He didn’t use his glasses to read either. Then she noticed the buckle on his belt. The buckle was large with the outline of a woman reaching up with one hand. Something was in the hand and lines radiated from it. It also looked like the woman may have wings or something else on her back.
He caught her looking and winked at her. She smiled back and then walked to the window where she watched the falling snow for a while. What had happened to her dad? The last time she saw him he had a smile but behind it was tremendous pain. Yet today, he was as happy as she had ever seen him.
Moments later, a familiar hand landed on her shoulder.
“I am fine.”
She nodded and said, “I can see that but I want to know what happened.”
“But you can tell that I am not allowed to say?”
“That is correct. I can tell you that this is the best and most fulfilling job I have ever had. I miss your mother beyond what you can imagine but I know that she would be proud of what I am doing.”
“But where did so much money come from Dad?”
“I signed on for ten years and took most of the money up front. All expenses are paid so I need little to live on. Mainly money for presents and personal travel. Plus, my boss was able to have most of the medical written off because of contracts they have with the medical community.”
“What is the catch? It is too good to not have a catch?”
“The job is very dangerous. I could die every time I go on a job.”
“I don’t like that Dad.”
Her father sighed a bit. This was why he came. This was the key issue and he needed his family to understand so that he could move forward. He answered gently in a sincere tone, “How do you want me to die? In a nursing home? Beaten up on a ghetto street? Or working to save lives?”
She looked into his eyes and finally understood. She gave him a hug and kissed him on the check.
“You will come to see me, us, every chance you get. Right?”
“Yes. Every chance I get that I am not at one of your brothers or sisters’ houses.”
They both laughed at that long and loud.
Her sister across the room heard the laugh and smiled inside. She felt much better and knew things would be ok. If dad could bring the “family boss” to a laugh, then it was going to be alright for the rest of them.
It was getting dark when he said he had to go. Everyone gathered around. Tears and hugs were spread around in abundance. It took a while but soon he was leaving, out the back door. She walked with him to the dumpster.
“I suppose you are going to disappear behind the garage.”
He chuckled and said, “Of course.”
“I thought so. You used to tease us about being a spy and somehow I think you are getting to live your jokes.”
“Jokes? I don’t know what you are talking about.”
They both laughed and hugged once more. He walked behind the garage and she saw the weird shimmer again and knew he was gone.
The Tall Man entered the ship through a shimmer in the back wall. He walked over to the man in the cowboy hat smiling.
“I guess you are going to wear that all the time when you are not on a mission.”
The man, known as Cowboy by the Order’s supply stations, turned and smiled.
“Another successful mission?”
“Yes. Although it was not easy. I thought for a while that my jaw was broke.”
“Perhaps it was. The amulet helps heal almost any injury.”
“Well, they are back on track. The “Guardian” has been defeated and his prisons liberated.”
“Good. I have another job for you as soon as you finish your visit home.”
“Home? Great. How long?”
“Three weeks in local time. It will be the second week of June when you get there.”
“Wonderful. Summer break.”
She watched her dad in the pool with seventeen of his twenty one grandkids. All six kids received paid travel for their families to the resort. One sister was not able to make it on time but would arrive later with the last four grandkids.
Officially, he worked for Humanity International and visited developing countries helping small business owners. She didn’t believe that. They did have nice offices in Knoxville, TN where he now had a nice house overlooking a lake. The family met there many times for family get togethers. Still, you could call or stop by at any other time and no one was ever there.
She loved him and he was happy. But, she was still curious.
The grandkids were climbing all over him and splashing everywhere. This is what it is all about. His trips home inspired him and allowed him to recharge. He saw his worry wart daughter and knew what she was thinking. It must be hard for her not knowing. Well, someday he would tell her. At some point he would have to because he was no longer aging the way they did on this planet.
He turned back to the grandkids too late. Two had jumped in from the side of the pool and a foot smacked him right in the face. Immediately, the kids started saying they were sorry. He laughed and splashed water on them. The fun started again.
Moments later, the kids were called from the pool to get ready for dinner. When they left he swam to the far end and looked out over the valley near by. Things had changed a lot for him. He tasted blood in his mouth and grabbed his jaw where the kids hit him. Life was great!